On Oct. 28, the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) published a Federal Register Notice titled “Changes to the Salmonella Verification Testing Program: Proposed Performance Standards for Salmonella in Raw Ground Beef and Beef Manufacturing Trimmings and Related Agency Verification Procedures”. The notice proposes updated Salmonella performance standards for raw ground beef and new performance standards for beef manufacturing trimmings for establishments that produce more than 50,000 pounds of these products per day. The notice also announces an increase in sampling for Salmonella in such establishments, announces how the agency will communicate to the public an establishment’s performance with the new standards, and addresses how the agency plans to assess whether beef establishments are effectively addressing Salmonella in their plants.
Proposed Performance Standards
Because of Salmonella outbreaks associated with ground beef products and to ensure beef establishments are consistently controlling or reducing Salmonella, FSIS is proposing to update its Salmonella performance standards for raw ground beef and establish a new performance standard for beef manufacturing trimmings. The proposed performance standards are as follows:
The performance standards would only apply to establishments producing more than 50,000 pounds of applicable product per day (higher volume establishments). FSIS reasons that more than 90 percent of raw ground beef and beef trimmings is produced in higher volume establishments and these plants have shown the highest prevalence of Salmonella.
The agency has also decided not to propose performance standards for components of ground beef other than beef manufacturing trimmings (e.g. esophagus (weasand) meat, head and cheek meat) since there is not enough data at this time to determine national prevalence. However, the agency states it will continue to analyze its testing data regarding these products and FSIS could decide to adopt performance standards for one or more of these products at a later date if deemed necessary.
Under FSIS’ proposal, the agency would assess each beef establishment’s performance using a 52-week moving window (similar to FSIS’ approach with Salmonella and Campylobacter performance standards in poultry establishments). FSIS will review the most recent 48 samples from the 52-week moving window to determine whether the establishment is meeting the performance standard. Those with two or fewer positives would be categorized as meeting the performance standards. Those with three or more positives would be categorized as not meeting the performance standards.
Similar to poultry, FSIS intends to post on its website the category status for all beef establishments subject to the updated and new performance standards; however, instead of posting three categories like poultry, the agency intends to only post two categories:
- Meeting: Establishments with no more than two positive Salmonella sample results during the 52-week window ending the last Saturday of the previous month, based on the last 48 samples results; and
- Not Meeting: Establishment with more than two positive Salmonella sample results during the 52-week window ending the last Saturday of the previous month, based on the last 48 sample results.
The agency will not post establishment results until one year after the new performance standards become effective, with the effective date being announced in a future Federal Register Notice finalizing the standards. In the interim, FSIS will make available monthly aggregate information regarding the status of all establishments, without identifying the status of any individual establishment. This would be posted on or about the 20th of each month on the agency’s website.
FSIS’ proposal would also require the agency to gather Shiga toxin-producing Escherichia coli (STEC) and Salmonella samples more frequently at higher volume establishments. Currently, the agency collects a maximum of four samples for STEC and Salmonella at higher-volume establishments in a month. The agency would begin to collect Salmonella samples at a rate of one per week under FSIS’s proposal.
Lower Volume Establishments
Under FSIS’ proposal, establishments producing less than 50,000 pounds of raw ground beef products and beef manufacturing trimmings will not be subject to Salmonella performance standards. But FSIS does intend to continue co-analyzing for Salmonella in all samples collected for STEC analysis to “monitor ongoing pathogen prevalence.” If lower-volume establishments experience three or more Salmonella positives within a 52-week period, the notice indicates it may be subject to follow-up sampling and/or a Public Health Risk Evaluation.
FSIS requested public comments on the notice, but comments were due on or before Dec. 27, 2019, prior to publication of this issue. NP